This month’s installment of Deep Cuts Rising features a variety of horror movies, with some selections reflecting a specific day or event in September, and others chosen at random.
Regardless of how they came to be here, or what they’re about, these past movies can generally be considered overlooked, forgotten or unknown.
This month’s offerings feature killer baboons, deadly office drama, and more.
A Photograph (1977)
Directed by John Glenister.
BBC1’s historic anthology series Play for Today aired for fourteen years, and in that time, it produced a small number of tales that sit somewhere in the vicinity of horror. Episodes also run close to feature length, thus making them more like TV-movies. While there was low chance of finding anything straightforwardly horror in this series, which mainly focused on dramas, there is no denying the sinister quality of certain stories.
A Photograph is a memorable as well as shocking entry from the middle years of Play for Today. It swiftly begins with a mystery; a strained couple argues over an anonymous photo mailed to the husband (Michael Otway). The wife (Stephanie Turner) believes he’s been unfaithful, solely based on this mysterious picture of two women sitting in front of a caravan. The husband claims ignorance of the photo’s meaning, but soon he becomes obsessed with uncovering the sender’s identity.
Apart from Blu-ray, A Photograph can be found with other Play for Today episodes on BritBox.
In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro (1986)
Directed by Raju Patel.
A lone monkey is not remotely as intimidating as a crocodile, lion or bear, so there’s really no surprise that these and other primates have never been particularly popular as a horror villain. Also, sometimes they’re just too cute to ever invoke genuine fear. The British-Kenyan production In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro, however, assures its audience that baboons are both powerful and fearsome. And when a drought hits a rural part of Kenya, hundreds of these creatures go ape on a few unlucky locals.
In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro is notable due to its intense animal training, which includes having a massive amount of real baboons charge at the actors. Obviously that’s not an easy task in an era where CGI was not too common yet. A fair share of gore and some gorgeous scenery help boost the value of this disregarded creature-feature as well.
In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro isn’t an easy movie to find anymore, and only parts outside the U.S. have released it on DVD. Of course, digitized copies have found their way online.
Office Killer (1997)
Directed by Cindy Sherman.
It’s easy to become lost or undervalued when working in an office setting. And with work-related stress and fatigue now being the norm, it’s no surprise that the horror genre started turning those feelings into motivation for murder. Perfect for Labor Day, Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer captures the stressful life of one put-upon pencil pusher, played to the max by Carol Kane, and captures in grisly detail how she alleviates the pressures of her job. The movie also stars Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Michael Imperioli.
This comedy is so dark, it verges on horror. This isn’t a simple slasher, though. It’s more of a character study about a woman trying to take back her power after submitting to years of abuse and ridicule from other women. For a deeper evaluation of this underpaid gem, check out Dahlia Schweitzer’s definitive book Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer: Another Kind of Monster.
Office Killer is hard to track down now, apart from out-of-print DVDs and imported Blu-rays, but it does occasionally reappear on streaming services.
Directed by Simon Hunter.
Prison transports rarely go off without a hitch in cinema. Most of the time a bus goes off track, but in the forgotten British horror movie Lighthouse, a prison ship sinks before reaching its destination. The survivors all take refuge inside an old lighthouse, including a homicidal inmate who loves to decapitate people.
Lighthouse is for fans of no-nonsense, survival-horror stories that take place over the course of one night and inside a single location. While the movie isn’t a whodunit, there is a slasher element. James Purefoy leads the cast, the body count is reasonably high, and production values are solid for a genre movie hardly anyone talks about anymore.
In the U.S., Image Entertainment released Lighthouse on DVD under the title of Dead of Night. For Amazon U.K. users, the movie is available for rent/purchase on Prime Video.
Leaving D.C. (2014)
Directed by Josh Criss.
September 30 is National Ghost Hunting Day. And while Leaving D.C. isn’t a typical ghost-hunting movie, its star and director does follow a similar path as actual paranormal sleuths. In this case, though, the goings-on are more realistically depicted. The scares are also more subtly effective.
In Leaving D.C., Mark (Criss) abandons the noisy big city for an isolated country house in West Virginia. His peace is short-lasting, though, because he fears someone (or something) is watching him. To qualify this as found-footage horror, Mark naturally records his findings.
Leaving D.C. is currently available to rent/purchase on Prime Video.
No genre is as prolific as horror, so it’s understandable that movies fall through the cracks all the time. That is where this recurring column, Deep Cuts Rising, comes in. Each installment of this series will spotlight several unsung or obscure movies from the past — some from way back when, and others from not so long ago — that could use more attention.